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Posted by Josh Samford On October - 4 - 2010

The Plot: Mike is a 13 year old boy having to deal with the death of his parents. Jody, his twenty-something brother has been thrown into the uncomfortable position of having to raise the boy. Mike fears that Jody will flee from his responsibility and leave him to fend for himself and although Jody has dealt with certain fears of responsibility, he loves his little brother and will look after him. Jody spends the majority of his days hanging out with his good friend Reggie, the local ice cream man who plays music with Jody. These three good friends are about to embark upon a horrifying journey that they never could have imagined! After Mike witnesses the local mortician, referred to only as “The Tall man”, picking up a fully loaded coffin by himself and throwing it in the back of his hearse he becomes suspicious about all of the missing persons cases that have been popping up. Mike sets out to find just how this “Tall Man” is linked to the missing locals and where he comes from. Along the way he convinces Reggie and Jody to come along for the ride and thus the final confrontation is set in stone as this group of average Joe’s look to take on the forces of evil!

The Review
With The Phantasm series it is difficult to really start up any conversation on the films because no matter what you’re probably going to end up covering the same issues everyone else already has. That’s the trouble when writing on any popular piece of cinema unfortunately, but sometimes you just have to throw your hat in the ring and seeing as it is time for Halloween Horrors here at Varied Celluloid, there is no time like the present to fully cover one of genre cinema’s most beloved films! In my teenage years, I figured I had seen the majority of American horror classics. Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween… heck, even the Leprechaun, Critters and Ghoulies movies! With The Phantasm series… as a kid things kind of blend together and after having sat and watched all four entries in the series some time last year the best explanation as to why I was never a devout or hardcore fan of the series is that excluding the third film, I had probably only seen snippets of any single one of the films. This came as a shock to even me, but as a kid you tend to forget the little things and I had always looked past these movies due to a rather cold opinion of them based upon misinformation. So, when I finally sat down to enjoy the entire series as a sort of refresher course – it turned ou that I was discovering a whole group of films I feel guilty for not truly discovering earlier on in my cinematic experience. As it turns out, the only entry in the series that I had seen the whole way through was this very first films. Although it may be the best of the bunch, they are all pretty great in their own way.

Now, the Phantasm series as a whole gets some very different observations depending on who you talk to. Fans of the series will talk about the great dream logic that translates from each movie to the next. They’ll talk about the excellent genre moments such as the introduction of the quad-barreled shotgun and all of the rather silly and fun moments that have defined Don Coscarelli’s intricate series. Then there are the detractors who will earnestly point out that for every one question that is answered in one of the sequels, there are thirty NEW and impossible to answer questions tacked onto things. Even though I think that both sides are right in different ways, the overall tone of fun is what makes the Phantasm movies a roaring success. Only in a series like this could you get away with getting little people to play zombies resurrected from beyond the grave at one-fourth their original size – and somehow do it in a manner that comes off as creepy and not just ridiculous. Go figure.

It seems that now since his great success with Bubba Ho-Tep, Don Coscarelli is finally getting some of the credit he truly deserves. He contributed what was considered to be the best entry into Showtime’s Masters of Horror series which was called Incident On and Off a Mountain Road and helped finally throw Bruce Campbell into a really great role without Sam Raimi. Although he has unfortunately left the Bubba Ho-Tep series, we could still be looking at a resurgence in this man’s career. However, horror fans are still waiting for him to complete his original, his baby, the Phantasm series. Until then, the best we can do is try to persuade as many people to absorb these films as we can. The first entry into the series, as is often the occasion, is the best and most remarkable to be sure. With this film we see a burgeoning Coscarelli playing with things such as genre and delving into the world of science fiction and horror with ease. The dream logic that the series has become well known for starts here, as we drift in and out of dream states and we see this horror unfold almost in a stream of consciousness. There are so many great and yet utterly bizarre moments, such as the brief glimpse we see of the Tall Man’s home planet as well as the incredibly strange ending that still confuses audiences to this day.

Although a film shot on a sometimes obvious budget, with an assortment of filmmakers probably not all that experienced (and this is the late seventies; not every Joe had the ability to practice making his own films in his backyard like nowadays) – the film still looks and holds up extraordinarily well. There are moments of obvious vision on the part of the director (that scene where the Tall Man is walking down the main street in front of Reggie and the ice cream truck is and always will be a defining moment in cinematic history) and it’s in those moments where you truly get to see how unique a film this was and still is. Where Phantasm shines most, and that is all of the films and even Coscarelli himself, is in the storytelling. Simple, effective and with as many trinkets thrown in to make it as amusing as possible. The Phantasm series on the outside looking in may seem like a really cool flick where giant balls fly around and drill into people’s heads (and that it may be as well), but what actually makes it a classic is it’s ability to do two things: tell a interesting story in an unusual way – and draw outlandish, hilarious and all around amusing three dimensional characters. With that kind of filmmaking at work, what more could you possibly need?

The Conclusion
The original Phantasm is best viewed as an experiment in horror, style and storytelling. Coscarelli showed a real knack for handling tension and suspense right here in the beginning of his career. I have seen this first film many times before, but I find myself rewatching in every Halloween. For me it is one of those films that perfectly encapsulates the FEEL of Halloween. The fun and fear that we all felt exploring the night during October is directly represented by Mike here in Phantasm and the movie just gives off that feel. I love the look and feel of Phantasm and I consider it one of the best horror films of the seventies. I give it my highest honors and hope that other film fans who have NOT experienced this movie will give it a fair break. It has issues and will thoroughly confuse you as it goes along, but have fun with it!

Gestapo’s Last Orgy, The

Posted by Josh Samford On September - 30 - 2010

The Plot: The movie begins post-World War II. An ex-Major to the Third Reich, Conrad von Starker, meets with a stoic young woman named Lise Cohen which he reveals to have had a relationship with. The two drive to the remains of a women’s concentration camp known as Naugen where they start to have collective flashbacks of the events that lead them to have a relationship. As it turns out, Lise was one of the prisoners there and the camp was being used as makeshift brothel for the soldiers before they returned to the front, the prettiest prisoners being used for sexual purposes. Despite the death and sleaze around her, Lise remains unafraid about her incarceration; no matter what is happening, who is getting killed or how, Lise is ready for death. Conrad von Starker notices Lise’s behavior and is enraged by her attitude: being the Commander of the camp, von Starker feels in control of the prisoner’s lives and having someone who wishes for death when it benefits them is against his ruling. He puts it upon himself to do whatever it takes to make Lise fearful of death, all the while the events building up to the eventual relationship between the two and what has really brought the two together at the camp one last time.

The Review
Well this was unexpected blow to my exploitation loving heart: a Nazisploitation sex drama complete with character development and artistic narration amidst the fascist murder and cruelty. It feels strange rating an Exploitation movie on the same merits as a movie that feels almost mainstream in its craft, acting and writing. I’m almost stunned. Well, I can safely start out by saying that as both a Drama and an Exploitation film, Last Orgy is average between the two, both melded together by fantastic cinematography, an oddly soothing soundtrack and an even stranger uplifting presentation that makes this a pretty original film, if not interesting. Before I go any further though, I need to point one thing out: This movie has nothing to do with the Gestapo. I may have bashed on Red Nights of the Gestapo, but at least that was actually about the Gestapo! The Gestapo only gets mentioned once in dialogue, but there’s not a single undercover Nazi cop in this movie.

As suggested, the film doubles as a character study, almost in the same way that Don’t Go in the House and May did. We follow the flashbacks of the young Lise as she quite bravely confronts the sleaze and danger around her as well as the back story as to how she came to be like this. It’s interesting watching her character develop, though at times it’s easy to see her as being a stoic and uncaring person; later on when she finally starts to pass from her previous phase, she only becomes more stoic and less sympathetic to those who showed concern for her than she did before. I kept having to remind myself as to why she did this, but I kind of hoped the movie would have subtle hints at the reminder as well.

The character of Conrad von Starker is your typical Nazi camp Commandant: when he’s not waxing warped philosophy, he’s complaining about how he’s become a pimp for the Third Reich and how he wants to return to the front and fight alongside his men. His role as sadist and a lover are separate though: as a lover he actually shows some signs of depth like when he finally realizes just how far he’ll go to make his relationship with Lise last. As a sadist though… he’s a little goofy, but I’ll get to that in a bit.

Then of course there’s the requisite doctor character, this taking place in a prison camp and all. Doctor Kerning is probably the best character in the movie… Hell, he even has the best lines in it! What’s funny to me is that his character is stereotypical to the Nazispolitation genre and even with Men Behind the Sun: there was the sympathetic doctor collaborating with a fascist Regime against his bioethical judgment. He doesn’t carry as much intensity and graveness as Dr. Meisel nor is he as cunning as the nameless assistant to Dr. Kratsch from SS Hell Camp, but he’s very charismatic and serves a major role in the transition to Lise’s character and even her own theme song. Yet after doing so, the whole movie takes a far more passive tone and immediately shifts to an eccentric love story between Lise and Not Dr. Kerning.

The film stock is pretty clear for the most part, but the entire movie has this weird BBC feel to it. I don’t quite know how to describe it, but it feels like it needed British accents and silly special effects. Otherwise, the cinematography is pretty damn good with a lot of uniquely placed camera angles, well-done zoom-ins and close-ups. I don’t quite know what to think of the sets and locations though. Naugen looks more like a farm than a stalag with only a few rustic interior shots even remotely similar to a camp. Some of the memorial graffiti shown in the present time does make the location look a little authentic. What throws me off about the sets though is Starker’s living quarters; I don’t find the decadence of a Nazi Officer’s quarters in a concentration camp too unbelievable, but Starker’s is so overly decorated in marble and elaborate moulding it looks more like a mansion bedroom! Who the Hell would build THAT at a concentration camp?! Was that a completely different area all together? I’m guessing so, because the film keeps showing us a castle island in the flashbacks, but none of the characters are shown entering it.

Most people remember this movie for the infamous dinner scene and I can see why: it has a great set-up and it’s incredibly well shot and sleazy. The dinner scene also has one character-actor playing an insane professor who is absolutely golden. The actor’s performance is villainous, grandiose, charismatic and hilarious; the only way the performance could’ve been any more glorious is if Gabrielle Carrara was playing the role. Sadly the dinner scene is hampered by a few things.

What gets to me about the dinner scene is that the main course could have been anything. It’s disturbing thinking about what it’s said to be, but we don’t actually get much evidence of it… which is nothing a trip to the Dollar Store wouldn’t have fixed. I’m guessing the director felt the same way, though, which explains why the scene takes a much more brutal turn and plays out as if Donny Kohler hosted dinner parties. Granted, if this were Don’t Go in the House, then Tom Brumberger would be around, meaning the burn effects would actually look creepy. I’m sorry, but as much as fat and skin shifts when burned, I kind of doubt cleavage would curl upwards like bananas!! Also, I don’t think using just drinking alcohol would ignite an entire human body like that; yeah, it was a lot of whiskey, but the liquor has to be 1.01 proof in order to double as an accelerant. What, you didn’t have an oil lamp hanging around?

There is this odd segment throughout the flashbacks and present time where characters from the past are being lead through the present scene by boat, controlled by some old guy in seventies civies. It’s actually a little distracting when this happens because it’s hard to tell if it’s happening in the past or present; from an artistic perspective, I guess it’s not supposed to really be happening, the story is just introducing us to a new emotional state for the heroine or a new character is being remembered. I just couldn’t get used to it though, kept asking myself ‘Who the Hell is that old guy in the boat?” What made this all the more confusing is the fact that both Starker and Lise look almost exactly the same age in both flashback and present time; the only difference is the slight change in hair color. It makes it hard to tell when everything is a flashback and when it’s a more surreal shot. Also, the scale of time feels a little off in the movie because Starker is seen driving a ‘60’s Mercedes, but he mentions a long five years since his trail… eh, I’m looking into this too hard.

I can say though that the brutality in this movie is a little off. At moments it can be brutal and crazy, but never brutal and crazy enough. The darkest the movie gets is early on when we see female prisoners being put to death in the furnaces and a pregnant woman is among those who are killed. Beyond that, there’s not much else to elevate the brutality, but the movie keeps trying. The chief Kapo Alma (Maristella Greco) keeps a group of dogs at the camp who are trained to eat women who are menstruating, but the mauling scene is so chopped-up and gentle-looking they might as well have just thrown in the ‘dangerous’ German Shepherd from Cabin Fever into the pen!

It is impressive watching a Nazisploitation movie that doesn’t resort to stock footage. Actually, neither did Red Nights of Gestapo; I guess if it’s got the word Gestapo in it, then the filmmakers won’t try to put in stock footage. Also, much like that movie, Last Orgy does have its own theme song complete with lyrics, or character theme song. It’s pretty good and only serves to highlight the already effective soundtrack… well, mostly effective. At times, the soundtrack uses violins and guitars really well, especially when Lise’s character develops; its all very peaceful and very nice and calming. At times, the violins emphasize on the appropriate sadness surrounding the camp, but it rarely sounds dark or dangerous; the only time the soundtrack ever sounds that way is in Alma’s theme… which is barely a minute long. The rest of the music, I don’t know… the scenes where the Nazis are being cruel to the prisoners mostly consist of bombastic drumming and trumpets. In context I guess it’s a decent balance, but when it’s played during the film’s first orgy scene, it’s actually kind of funny.

The movie just drips with sleaze, so I’ll give it that credit. There’s tons of uncomfortable nudity in the film and quite a bit of abuse, though like I said, it never quite goes far enough. The aforementioned first orgy is unintentionally funny, not just because of the music score, but because it’s got quite a sense of humor to it all: it opens up with a bunch of naked Nazi soldiers lined up which is ample opportunity for the filmmakers to cut to close-up of one of their butts just as he farts.

Let me give you some time for that to sink in.

Then the soldiers are subjected to a slideshow of different women doing sexually perverted things, one of which consisting of scat porn… or some really mess milk chocolate. The soldiers are then ordered to jump and rape several of the young camp arrivals, but by that point I was still recovering from laughter.

What I love about the torture scenes is just how gentle and surprisingly inventive most of them can be. There’s a scene where the Commandant threatens to force Lise’s face into a terrarium full of rats, but they’re not really rats… they’re mice! Simple, tiny as Hell, pet store mice! They aren’t even Satin Mice for Christ’s sake; at least those grow a little big. They could only be less intimidating if they were hamsters! Alma seems to be the only real form of brutality in the movie; there is a cool looking mustachioed Nazi officer (who kind of looks like one of my best buddies if he were in his forties) who beats some of the women, but half way through the movie the evil bastard is just forgotten about. Aside from the rather bland dog mauling, Alma later reveals her hobby of turning human body parts into clothing and furniture, but one of them consists of a lampshade made from the skin of a man’s chest (complete with nipple) women’s underwear made from women’s hair! Damn, now I guess I know where all those Master of the Universe guys got their underpants from. Unfortunately, that’s as far as it goes! I’m serious, there’s nothing else beyond that! The family from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre had furniture made out of assorted species’ bone… and a skin lamp shade is the grossest she can come up with?

The brutality of the movie consists of Torture Porn and really, that’s all it comes down to. The movie suggests child brutality along the same line as Women’s Camp 119, SS Hell Camp or Men Behind the Sun, but unlike those movies we don’t actually see it happen or see the end result… it’s suggested, but we don’t really KNOW that. Considering how farm-like the camp looks, maybe it was just forced labor.

The Shriek Show DVD features something I didn’t quite expect for an Italian movie or even a Nazisploitation movie for that matter: the movie in its original Italian audio release! This was actually quite a treat because it allows the viewer to juxtapose the audible performances between dubbed and original. Plus, it makes the review easier to note on the actor’s performances when you actually hear the original language they speak in. That said, the original Italian audio makes many of the performances much more effective: Maristella Greco sounds incredibly sexy and sinister and Adriano Micantoni sounds just right in that gruff authoritative way. Maybe because, as good as his English dub actor is, I kept expecting him to say ‘boy-howdy’ with every exclamation.

The Conclusion
I still feel awkward rating this one. Maybe I’m just overly expectant when it comes to the genre to see dark and violent sleaze, but this one is comparatively less graphic. The most graphic it ever gets are the S&M orgy and the dinner burning scenes which, as I suggested, are partly laughable. However, I have to say that it’s a very well shot and cleverly written movie that not only delivers the nudity, but also the sleaze. It’s a unique combination, so overall, check it out.

Dr. Lamb

Posted by Josh Samford On September - 29 - 2010
The Plot: With a great number of recent missing persons, things are getting tense within the police department where Detective Lee (played by Danny Lee) works. After they receive a tip dealing with a photographer who has been dropping off photos of young women nude who look like they may be dead, the force jumps on it. They end up catching the brilliant, but utterly strange, Lam (Simon Yam) who refuses to talk about anything with them at first. Even in the face of torture he refuses to utter a word. After Lee turns his own family against him though, Lam feels completely alone and confesses to his crimes. What follows is a brutal and harrowing account of his victims and their final hours. Lam killed several women, all seemingly for the bland reason that they annoyed him. This is his story.

The Review
I recently mentioned my lack of experience with the world of Hong Kong CAT III cinema during my review for Naked Killer, but as you can see I am currently in the midst of trying to repair that mistake. Dr. Lamb is a title that has been on my list for a number of years, but never quite made it up the queue for some odd reason. I was shocked to realize just how little I knew about the movie before actually starting up the DVD and giving the movie a fair shake! For instance, I didn’t even realize that the movie had both Simon Yam and Danny Lee in starring roles. Two of my favorite Hong Kong actors teaming up in a Category III shocker? How could I have dared to delay this? As it turns out, my delay on this movie was an even worse mistake than I could have imagined, because as it turns out this is one of the better shock films I have seen in a while! Granted, with this sort of movie your expectations are pretty low but there are plenty of characteristics that keep Dr. Lamb a very interesting watch. Proficiently made, full of interesting performances and it features some truly brutal and depraved content that will ward off some viewers and yet draw in many more. Dr. Lamb is an ideal cult movie and easily one of best Cat III movies I have seen thus far.

Based off of true events, Dr. Lamb is very matter of fact in its nature. Although there are shades of Taxi Driver in the fact that Simon Yam’s character shares the same job and disposition towards immoral activities, his character is a more typically selfish and much more sexual than the Travis Bickel archetype. We have sympathy for this man to a degree, thanks to Yam’s performance, but generally he doesn’t carry that same charismatic nature that made Robert DeNiro’s performance so interesting. This selfish and incredibly hipocritical man is at first non-responsive to almost anything that the police do. Torture produces nothing as he simply stares at the men who try to prod information out of him and during these first thirty minutes or so, you are unsure what direction this movie will ultimately take. Due to the extreme torture applied by the police, you don’t really get the feeling that this is an exact replica of events and in that regard you start expecting much more drama. I found myself reminded of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure to a degree, especially in how Simon Yam’s character at first seems so cool and collected in the face of the police who have finally caught up with him. I started to anticipate an escape attempt, or some form of cat and mouse game with the police. However, once his family beats a confession out of him the movie slowly becomes a series of re-enactments that take on a episodic nature. It even starts to take on the feel of a anthology film in the way that these stories are orchestrated.

Aside from its very extreme nastiness, the standout attribute that you have to point out for Dr. Lamb is the cast. As I have already mentioned, Danny Lee and Simon Yam fill out the two central roles and both actors are engaging in their performances for very different reasons. Amongst the supporting cast there is Kent Cheng who I will always remember as the two-face cop from Jackie Chan’s Crime Story, here he serves as comedic relief. The man is a very heavy and he lives in Hong Kong, so of course he is going to be on the butt end of many poor jokes. This movie provides no exception. Emily Kwan also shows up playing the same role that she would later go on to play in The Untold Story, which is that of a silly but charismatic officer underneath Danny Lee. Speaking of Danny Lee… poor Danny Lee has played more police officers than probably any other actor I can think of. The man has been type-cast his entire career and he once again plays a character here named “Inspector Lee”. Although he obviously didn’t mind taking the work, this role is essentially trademark Lee. He is tough, no non-sense and in charge of a gang of baffoonish officers who look to him for guidance. Lee excelled in playing that experienced authority figure with a heart of gold. Once again he is able to get inside of the mind of a criminal and shows sympathy for their plight, even if Simon Yam’s character Lam might not deserve it. Yam shows why he is one of the most sought after and respected actors in Hong Kong, as he delivers a true tour de force performance here. He somehow refrains from making the entire role a joke, despite the fact he goes far beyond “over the top” behavior. There are moments where Yam actually had me laughing in my seat but he is just as capable of unnerving the viewer with his powerful stare or psychotic rage. His range jumps from zero to six hundred in mere seconds, as he quite literally bounces around the room with a butcher’s knife.

Although this may be a theory shared only by myself, I picked up on shades of lycanthrope throughout the movie. Although not subtantial to the plot or even capable of being proved, I couldn’t help but feel some light attempts at a connection being made between Lam and the Werewolf concept. Lam prowls the streets at night, but only strikes during rainy nights in the same way that a werewolf would only strike during the full moon. Also, as Lam mutilates the body of his victims he howls like a dog and becomes ravenous with his blood lust. Is this loose and more than likely a coincidence? Of course, but I couldn’t help but wonder. That may be about as far as one is going to get with subtext and Dr. Lamb, but for what it is the movie certainly delivers. Proving to be more disturbed (in my opinion) than The Untold Story, the nasty taboos that are utterly shattered here are not for the faint of heart. Necrophilia, vomiting and breast slicing are the main ingredients of this soup de jour. The grit and the grime of the film gives it a sickly feeling, yet the audience remains glued to their seat just to see how far the movie will take things. The blood and gore aren’t as plentiful as some films tend to be, sure, but that doesn’t short this film in the realm of disturbing cinema. It is not a title for the weaker disposition.

The Conclusion
Dr. Lamb is reserved for a very select number of people. After reading this review, you should know whether you fit in with that community or not. If there is a weakness in the movie, it is that there is essentially no point to any of this madness. All we really get is a re-enactment of a series of bizarre crimes, with no series of dramatic archs to get the audience hooked. That is where the violence and socialogical taboos come into play but that is something I feel many audiences may have little interest in. On a personal level however, I really liked Dr. Lamb as an experiment in transgressive filmmaking. It looks good, its as polished as a gritty movie like this possibly could be and it pushes the envelope in terms of what can or can not be done in cinema. I give it a four out of five, but leave viewers with a warning: this isn’t the most shocking movie ever made, it isn’t the most well made of the CAT III shockers – but it is at all times interesting and engaging. With that in mind, give this one a look-see some time!

Django and Sartana Are Coming… It’s the End!

Posted by Josh Samford On September - 22 - 2010
Hey everybody! We’re gearing up for Halloween Horrors, but that doesn’t mean I’ve abandoned all of the other great genres that we usually cover on here! Here we have a spectacularly bad piece of Spaghetti Western history for you to chew on and look forward to a grand Jawsploitation title as well as some more CAT III madness in the next couple of days!

The Plot: Burt Kelly (Gordon Mitchell) is a maniac outlaw with no firm grasp on reality. While looking to cross the border and escape the law, he decides to kidnap a rich landowners daughter in attempt to keep her as a bargaining chip. This escalates the already high bounty on Kelly’s head and this draws the bounty killer Django into the equation as he now has Kelly in his sites. Sartana, who is acting as a vigilante, already has Kelly on his hitlist and Burt already knows this. So he tries to eliminate Sartana unsuccessfully but this ultimately draws both Django and Sartana to the same side of the coin as both men set out to put an end to the psychotic reign of Black Burt Kelly once and for all!


Django and Sartana Are Coming… It’s the End!

Posted by Josh Samford On September - 22 - 2010
The Plot: Burt Kelly (Gordon Mitchell) is a maniac outlaw with no firm grasp on reality. While looking to cross the border and escape the law, he decides to kidnap a rich landowners daughter in attempt to keep her as a bargaining chip. This escalates the already high bounty on Kelly’s head and this draws the bounty killer Django into the equation as he now has Kelly in his sites. Sartana, who is acting as a vigilante, already has Kelly on his hitlist and Burt already knows this. So he tries to eliminate Sartana unsuccessfully but this ultimately draws both Django and Sartana to the same side of the coin as both men set out to put an end to the psychotic reign of Black Burt Kelly once and for all!

The Review
Although slightly classier than most other Italian genre films that had their swing in popularity throughout the better half of the sixties and seventies, the Spaghetti Western is not without its moments of exploitation and ridiculousness. Django and Sartana Are Coming… It’s the End! is a prime example of this exploitative element. Similar to the genre of Brucesploitation (see: Dragon Lives Again, Goodbye Bruce Lee or Bruce Lee Fights Back From the Grave) this film shows that same “Let’s do anything for a buck!” mentality that can be found in almost any subgenre of exploitation cinema. For those who don’t follow, if you’re expecting to see Franco Nero back in his role as Django or Gianni Garko reprise his role as Sartana… you are going to be sorely let down. Going into this movie, I knew what to expect of course but it is still somewhat surprising to see an unofficial title being so brazen about their stealing of these characters. Even within the brucesploitation realm it is often tricky to find a movie that actually has a character playing the role of Bruce Lee himself if it is not a historical piece of some sort. So, with the filmmakers obviously going so over the top as to hijack these characters you can probably expect a raucous and wild piece of exploitation in the old west, correct? Well, let me just spoil the entire review for you right now as the answer to that question is a definitive and painstakingly dull: NO. It is unfortunate that the filmmakers could steal so much but completely lose sight of what makes any western remotely fun.

I don’t want to give you the wrong impression, from a technical standpoint Django and Sartana… is not a terrible piece of genre filmmaking. The overall look of the movie is actually quite nice. I can say whatever I want about the project on the whole, but it most certainly deviates from genre in the way that it actually looks. Having more in common with a John Ford western than something from Sergio Leone, the movie has a slightly traditional look to it. The costumes are slightly campy, the desert is shown as being very dry and the characters aren’t quite as dingy and beat up as you would normally expect from a Spaghetti Western. There is also a highly well made score to go along with the interesting visuals. Coriolano Gori, who had worked many times within the genre, crafts what is possibly the best score that I have personally heard from him. Mind you I have only seen a few of the MANY titles that he is credited as composer. The score really invokes a lot of Morricone in it, which is never a bad thing! The filmmakers even ran with this Morricone idea and essentially duplicated the opening animation for The Good, The Bad and The Ugly while highlighting how great this score is. The movie opens up with this and although it seems like it is in bad taste to rip off Leone in such a fashion, I still gave the film the benefit of a doubt after how tremendous the music was and how much I found myself enjoying it. Then the boredom inevitably set in and absolutely ruined everything for me.

Dick Spitfire is credited as the director of this film, which would be a fantastic name for a Gonnoreah suffering superhero. In reality it is the alias for one Diego Spataro who would later go by this alias on the project Go Away! Trinity Has Arrived in Eldorado!. According to the IMDB however, the film was directed by Spataro alongside veteran director Demofilo Fidani. Fidani has a bit of a reputation as one of the worst Spaghetti Western directors to make it. I am not familiar with his work to be honest, but Django and Sartana… certainly seems in keeping with everything that I have read. It is derivative, old hat and lacks any new or interesting concepts in order to keep the audiences attention. The absolute worst part is that this movie is just boring for its lack of direction or decent pacing. Nearly falling asleep while watching, I had to split up my viewings in order to stay awake. For a mere ninety minute film, this movie has more padding than a Orthopedic mattress. There is actually a five minute poker sequence in this movie that will boggle your mind if you ever have the misfortune to see it. Five minutes are literally wasted as we watch the back and forth of one of our heroes simply losing all of his money to a group of gambling cheats. Hands are dealt, wagers are called and the audience falls asleep. The only break we get from this tension-sucking whirlpool of boredom is a shot of a man riding in on a horse that goes on for an equally absurd amount of time. Speaking on the issue of horse riding, if there were a drinking game for Django and Sartana… it would be for every time someone rides horseback while the music swells around them. Going back to this poker game, the whole ordeal ultimately ends with our hero gunning down these cheats after losing yet another hand. This was another odd break from convention, but not necessarily a welcome one, as neither Django or Sartana come off as being particularly tough throughout this entire film. When it comes to fist fights, over and over again each man is beaten and bloodied. The superhero mentality is completely abandoned in this film as you actually never EXPECT these guys to win a fight.

The best part about the entire project may be the films title. Django and Sartana Are Coming… It’s the End!, that is a classic title! The other alias it often goes by is Django and Sartana: Showdown in the West which I am equally as big a fan of! Those are great titles, but unfortunately there is no showdown and you simply end up praying for the end. Wow, harsh much? Perhaps. This project certainly doesn’t deserve absolute venom, even though I have been relatively hard on it up until this point. Gordon Mitchell, who plays the lead villain Burt Kelly (often attributed as “Burt Keller”, I’m pretty confident that his name is written as Burt Kelly in the film), is really fantastic in his role and truly delivers the goods. His character is essentially the western version of The Joker, maniacal and psychotic with a penchant for chaos. There is a great moment in the film where Mitchell is actually playing poker with himself in the mirror and his growing anger is actually quite funny. Gordon Mitchell, Jack Betts (Sartana here) and Demofilo Fidani made quite a few pictures together with Betts and Mitchell at other ends of the good guy/bad guy spectrum, and if I didn’t fear that these movies would be so dreadfully boring I would actually search them out simply to see what Mitchell could deliver.

The Trivia
  • One of only two projects directed by Diego Spataro. He spent the majority of his career in various other positions from Production Assistant to Producer.

  • Photographed by an up and coming Joe D’Amato.

  • The Conclusion
    Django and Sartana.. is at best a very average movie and at worst a terror to have to sit through. It looks good enough, has a great score and features at least one very interesting performance. With those positives in mind, I give it a two rating. It came terribly close to garnering a one, but you know what this one doesn’t really do a whole lot to make itself that bad. It’s just unfortunately a very boring movie that probably encapsulates everything that outsiders generally hate about the western genre. I would say only check this one out if you’re a Fidani fan (hey, Bruno Mattei and Joe D’Amato have fans right?) or you’re simply a spaghetti western completest.




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